A Maine conservation group wants to see wolf populations rebound in its state and said there's a good chance there are more wolves in New Brunswick that should be protected, jointly, by the U.S. and Canada.
DNA tests released last week confirmed the first known wolf kill in New Brunswick since the late 1870s.
John Glowa, president of the Maine Wolf Coalition, believes the animals are trying to re-establish themselves in eastern North America and said over the past 20 years, wolves have been found in Maine, Massachusetts and New York State.
"It seems to be a new wolf species. These animals are ranging 80, 90 to 100 pounds," Glowa said.
"It's an extremely interesting and complex situation that scientists really haven't gotten a handle on yet."
'It is happening. It's inevitable. But it will happen sooner if our governments work together to give wolves the protection that they're going to need.'—John Glowa, President of the Maine Wolf Coalition
Glowa said based on these sightings, he predicted it was only a matter of time before one was found in neighbouring New Brunswick.
"New Brunswick has a tremendous amount of potential wolf habitat, large numbers of prey for wolves, and when you combine Maine and New Brunswick together —remember that wolves don't recognize international boundaries — you have in excess of a quarter of a million deer, and you have in excess of 50,000 moose. So this entire region would really be a wolf magnet," he said.
Glowa said wolves are an important part of the ecosystem and allowing wolf populations to rebound in eastern North America would be "righting a wrong," that humans perpetuated on the species.
He said the large meat-eaters pose very little risk to humans.
"To be honest with you, you're at far more risk of being injured or killed getting into your car and driving to the market in the morning, than you are being affected by wolves," Glowa said.
"The chances of it occurring are infinitesimally small. I would tell folks just go about their regular business and not give it a second thought. Wolves are wild animals, they don't want to bother people, they want to be left alone."
Canada a leader in wolf conservation
He'd love to see Canada and the U.S. work together on the issue.
"Wolves were never exterminated in Canada. People across Canada coexist with wolves now. So I think Canada can be a real leader on this issue and we're hopeful that they will be," Glowa said.
He said the the Maine Wolf Coalition's initial request to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and to Canada's Environment Minister did not get much positive response.
The group sent another letter last week, again asking that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work with Canada to promote the wolf's natural recolonization.
"It is happening. It's inevitable. But it will happen sooner if our governments work together to give wolves the protection that they're going to need."
Glowa said to give the wolf a chance, hunters shouldn't pull the trigger if they're not completely sure what they're shooting.
He said scientists should get a chance to examine any big, dead "coyotes."
Joe Kennedy, a biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, said it's often difficult to tell coyotes and wolves apart.
He said the two species have similar coat colours and although wolves are often much bigger than coyotes, he has seen some very large coyote specimens.
"There's very strong similarities in appearance between to the two animals and occasionally there's not a great size difference," Kennedy said.
According to its website, the Maine Wolf Coalition is an all-volunteer organization founded in 1994 to support wolf recovery in Maine through research, education and protection.
The coalition's aim is to gather reports and follow up on possible wolf sightings, working to educate the public, public officials and the press.